We're richer but watch out for unrest

Inequality on the rise again: Pro
Inequality on the rise again: Pro   

The world is getting richer as global wealth surged to 20 percent above its pre-crisis peak in 2007, jumping $20.1 trillion over the past year to $263 trillion, but is generating conditions that have sparked social crises in the past, according to new research by Credit Suisse.

The U.S. led the way again with a rise of $8.9 trillion in household wealth for the 12 months ending mid-2014, the investment bank said in its Global Wealth Report.

Europe made the second-largest contribution, adding $8.1 trillion. Despite making enormous strides in recent years, China, which accounts for 21.4 percent of the adult population of the world, only added 8.1 percent of global wealth or $715 billion.

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Michael O'Sullivan, UK CIO at Credit Suisse told CNBC that Spain and Japan had both created the same number of dollar millionaires as China in the past year.

"In the next few years emerging markets will have about 20 percent of the world's wealth. But if you look at Russia, Turkey -- countries that have had turbulence, weaker currencies – it really has fallen off," he said.

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The changes in household wealth, which Credit Suisse measures in dollars, are largely driven by property prices and inflated financial markets helped by the U.S Federal Reserve's massive bond-buying program.

"In some countries, 90 percent of wealth is made up of property," O'Sullivan said. "The rise in equities in the last year or so has really helped wealth in the U.S."

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Since the report measures wealth in dollars, the global wealth league table is sensitive to exchange rates versus the U.S. dollar. Europe has been the main beneficiary of currency appreciation this year, the report said, with the euro gaining 5.3 percent and the British pound topping the table with a rise of 12.4 percent.

Credit Suisse also points to a rise in wealth inequality.

"Most of the wealth and income inequality indicators…are at levels where they provoked social, political debates or crises," according to O'Sullivan.

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It points out that, taken together, the bottom half of the global population owns less than 1 percent of total wealth.

Switzerland was the richest nation, with average wealth of $500,000. Australia retained second place, with Norway in third position. The U.S. came in fourth.

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